Sunday, November 20, 2011

Week 12: Case 09: Online Learning: Virtual School

In considering who is responsible to pay for students attending virtual high schools, the first question should be who should be paying for education, period. If your response would be that parents (families) should be paying for the education of their own children, not government, then parents should also pay for their own students attending virtual high schools. Conversely, if your response would be that government (state and/or federal) should be paying for children to attend public (“government”) schools, then the government should also pay for students attending virtual high schools. However, I would suggest that rather than the government paying private virtual high schools, since the government does not currently assist with private school tuition (despite the fact that the parents with children in private schools probably have paid taxes which assist in the education of other people’s children), each state should have their own public (“government”) virtual high school. If our society were to move into a government voucher system (using tax dollars to be used for the parents’ school of choice), then private virtual high schools should be included in the voucher system. Although I believe that the private sector, because of competition, provides a better educational system, this is not currently the government’s position; thus, the government should be consistent, then, and pay for the educational costs of students attending virtual high schools.

With my position that each state should have a virtual high school, as stated above, I do not believe that it would be necessary or cost-effective for each district to have a virtual high school. This way, state standards and course requirements would remain constant which would eliminate duplication of effort within each district. The districts should still receive local, state, and federal funding for their enrolled virtual students as they do for regular students, but they would also be ‘billed’ by the state to offset the state’s expenses with the virtual high school. This would also assist with growing enrollment issues at the district level and could eventually reduce overhead and physical maintenance costs for the districts.

Question No. 3 assumes, I believe, that districts would notify parents of the opportunity for on-line courses. With or without a state-supported virtual school, I believe parents should be notified via mail as well as high school orientation sessions that the opportunity exists for on-line coursework by the guidance counselors of each high school. These counselors should have personal interaction with each of their students and would be serve the student by discussing educational options. I do not believe that these on-line courses should be available only to struggling learners, behavioral problematic students, those physically unable to attend school, or special circumstance students. Many courses could be available, for example, for gifted and talented students, or even for those students with special interests, such as a foreign language not offered within one’s own school district.

While I would not be a proponent of requiring a degree in teaching on-line courses, I do believe that coursework in teaching on-line courses should be a requirement, as an area of concentration or a minor. Many different strategies, for example classroom management and knowledge/comfort with technology, would be applicable to online instruction and would benefit both teacher and student. But an actual degree in the content area should still be required; how can teachers teach what they do not know?

(As you’ve noticed, I included my thoughts on areas of extra attention within each case discussion question.)

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